When Cathy Brand Beere was a little girl her mother ran a confectionary supply business known as Country Kitchen. The little girl was surrounded by the sweet ingredients. She spent her days experimenting and learning about the sugary business and when she became a woman she started her own business in 1987, known as Debrand Gourmet Chocolates.
Debrand Gourmet Chocolates is headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana and has customers far and wide. They have shipped chocolates to Japan and Australia – and this year shipped over 2,000 packages during the holiday season. There are 4 locations where customers are welcome to come in and taste their wares. Beere has a strict rule about marketing her chocolates in stores because she is very aware of shelf time and only wishes to give customers her very best. Therefore, Debrand Chocolates are only available at the shops or by being shipped directly to your home.
Before the holiday season shifted into gear I was able to have an interview with Beere about her business philosophy. We also talked about her future ideas for the business and some of her great moments with Debrand.
ABS) – What are the two most wonderful moments that have happened to you while in this business?
CBB) – There are many more than two. It makes my day whenever we receive an email from a customer who is excited about our chocolates. There have been many occasions when Debrand was involved in marriage proposals from situations such as hiding a ring in a box of chocolates to helping plan a special evening in our shop to serving a truffle for dessert that is actually hollow so when lifted off the plate a ring was exposed.
A bittersweet moment was when a gentleman came in to purchase a box of his mother’s favorite orange creams, as she was lying in the hospital dying. Wonderful moments are when we can see how our chocolates can touch people’s lives and how they can appeal to every type of person from rich and famous to common people.
From Donald Trump in New York to Dyan Cannon in Hollywood to the young woman in Fort Wayne who works as a cashier and comes to Debrand to treat herself every time she cashes her paycheck.
ABS) What is your company culture like?
CBB) At times it can be relaxed, but more usually more of a pressure cooker. When things are going smoothly, I tend to want to add something. We usually employ 80-90 people.
ABS) Do you plan to enlarge your internet presence? What do you think of online shopping?
CBB) Yes – I hope to enlarge the presence. That area has most potential for growth as we can sell to the whole world. I think that online shopping can be a great and easy experience for the consumer when a company runs it well. It can be fun, too. A good example would be that on our site customers can “take a bite” or “pick your piece”.
ABS) – I noticed that there are tours for the public – like a chocolate factory? How do children act in the store? And have you noticed anything funny that children have done?
CBB) – Children are usually quite well-behaved and excited to be here although occasionally they may be a parent who not watch his/her children closely. Our giant caramel apples usually serve 6-8 people and are cut into slices but it was funny one day when I saw a child biting into one as an individual apple (the apple was about as big as the child’s head). We sometimes receive notes from children after attending a tour and I remember one child writing that, “it was the best day of my life.”
The best day of my life. Imagine, a little child roaming a chocolate factory. Is there anything more sweet or warm? Cathy Brand Beere created a dream of chocolate for children. This year on Valentine’s Day, that dream could include lovers, too.